Bush Moves Quickly to Cut Wages in Gulf States


Richard Moore


Profiting From Disaster: Bush Moves Quickly to 
Cut Wages in Gulf States
By Joel Wendland 
9-12-05, 11:30 am 

The Bush administration's failure to respond rapidly and
adequately to the catastrophe after Hurricane Katrina earned
it much deserved criticism. But the administration did respond
quickly to requests by its large donors and corporate backers
to push on with its ultra-right agenda.

One of Bush's very first responses to the hurricane tragedy,
aside from refusing to take responsibility for his
administration's slowness, its excessive vacation time, its
appointment of incompetents, and its years of budget cuts that
allowed New Orleans' levees to crumble, was to suspend a
federal law that requires corporations who receive federal
contracts to pay prevailing wages in the region the work is

Bush claims that his indefinite suspension of this law, known
as the Davis-Bacon Act, aimed only at the Gulf States is
needed to help the region recover. The wage rollback was
ordered before the administration even announced the removal
of Michael Brown from overseeing Katrina recovery operations.

Unfortunately, Bush's argument only considers the point of
view of business interests. And since the only real work that
will be occurring along the Gulf Coast in the near future that
might be affected by suspension of the law will be related to
reconstruction, Bush's policy decision has a major impact on
workers' wages and the pace of economic recovery in the

While Bush's policy will likely boost profits for the
companies involved, Bush's call to lift wage protections will
adversely affect workers, their families, and the local
communities in which they will be living.

In addition to this simple fact, reports from the Washington
Post and other news sources show that federal contracts for
the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast are going to companies
with ties to the Bush administration.

Kellog, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of the infamous
Halliburton Company known for squandering billions of taxpayer
dollars in Iraq, the Shaw Group, and Bechtel are three of the
top federal contractors whom FEMA has selected to begin
reconstruction projects worth hundreds of millions so far.

All three of these companies have strong personal ties to the
Bush administration through former and current employees, a
network of corporate lobbyists, current contracts, and
enormous political campaign contributions. Only Shaw Group is
based in Louisiana.

Bush's policy of favoritism and fattening the bottom line by
pushing down wages has been denounced by critics as aiding in
profiting from disaster.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney demanded a reversal of the
policy. "Employers are all too eager to exploit workers. This
is no time to make that easier," Sweeney said last week. "What
a double tragedy it would be to allow the destruction of
Hurricane Katrina to depress living standards even further.
Taking advantage of a national tragedy to get rid of a
protection for workers the corporate backers of the White
House have long wanted to remove is nothing less than

Anna Burger, chair of the Change to Win Coalition, also added
a call for overturning Bush's order. "This crisis," Burger
stated, "should not be used to compound the tragedy that has
befallen tens of thousands of working people that have already
lost their homes, their jobs and their loved ones. Rebuilding
the disaster zone should be done on the basis of the strongest
worker protections."

While Bush's defenders, trying use the disaster to score
ideological points, insist that the Davis-Bacon law is a
costly bureaucratic rule that will slow down recovery, they do
so only because they regard any law that helps workers as a
burden on the corporate interests they serve. Interestingly,
when the demand for accountability was at its sharpest, Bush's
defenders insisted that now is the time to set aside
differences and work together to rebuild and recover.

Unfortunately this talking point doesn't seem to apply when it
comes to the bottom line of the companies that have turned in
millions to help get Bush elected. Additionally, Bush's
defenders fail to note that speedy economic recovery depends
most on creating as many good paying jobs as quickly as
possible, not on policies that increase high profits for few
companies who for the most part aren't going to reinvest their
profits in the Gulf Coast states.

Now is not the time to profit off of disaster. Now is the time
for the federal government to invest the needed money and
provide direction to enable the communities involved in the
recovery to work together to rebuild and to help working
families return to a normal life with the help of good paying
jobs and good benefits.

A resolute and concentrated effort to rebuild schools,
hospitals, roads, public transportation, community buildings,
housing, and other important sites based on good paying jobs
should be the focus of the recovery work. But, for Bush,
profits for the few are the only thing that really get him

Withholding good wages in order to enrich Bush's buddies is
simply a crime that compounds the crimes that created the
immensity of this disaster in the first place.

--Reach Joel Wendland at •••@••.•••. 

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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland
blog: http://harmonization.blogspot.com/

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